Trawlers full steam ahead
IT TOOK a decade but on Tuesday 37 trawler captains steamed through the newly dredged Palmers Channel into Lake Wooloweyah with beaming smiles on the first day of the prawn trawl season.
Don Mowbray said despite not catching a prawn in two shots the dredged channel was a great way to start the season.
"It was so good just to be able to come down the channel after leaving your wharf and everybody just steamed straight through.
"There was no sitting there and waiting for half an hour or an hour while somebody got stuck."
"One of the other fellas said this is the first time in about 10 years I have been able to just steam home."
Even though it was low tide, Mr Mowbray said trawlers still had at least a metre of clearance through the channel.
"The channel was 1.8 metres deep at low tide," he said.
"Some of the smaller boats come down to four or 500 millimetres but the majority of the boats would be around point six or point seven metres.
"There were 37 boats out there on the lake on Tuesday because they could all get in.
"Most don't try and get in because they draw a little too much water and you just do damage to your boat trying to push your way in the first few days of the season until the channel opens up with all the traffic."
Paul Apps, who has been trawling the river, lake and ocean for almost 48 years described the dredged channel as fantastic.
"It's the best thing since bread and butter," he said.
"It's nice and wide and deep now and for years people had trouble getting out and getting stuck.
"In past years people would go out and anchor in the lake overnight just so they wouldn't get stuck in the morning."
After battling to steam down the channel for at least 10 years, Bruce Ellem said the dredging will save a lot of fishermen damage to their boats.
"The dredging allows safe passage in and out of Palmers Channel," he said.
"It was brilliant . . . it's the best thing they have ever done.
"It also save a lot of damage to our boats . . . you can do a lot of damage on the hard bottom."
The O'Farrell government provided Clarence Valley council with more than $124,000 to dredge Palmers Channel before the trawling season started.
Professional Fishermen's Association executive officer John Harrison said funding for the dredging was announced in April, just three weeks after the coalition were voted in.
"The industry had been asking the NSW government for the dredging for 10 years post the twin major floods in 2001," he said.
"The dredging would not have occurred without the support of the Clarence Valley Council.
"A number of key staff were absolutely outstanding in their dedication to getting the task completed.
"The industry cannot thank them enough for their tenacious attitude in seeing the project through and managing the project."
In past years people would go out and anchor in the lake overnight just so they wouldn't get stuck in the morning."